One month. No exercise. Here’s what happened

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Helloooo everyone,

As some of you might know, recently I decided to take a break from the gym. While to some this might not seem like a big deal and maybe even relieving not to HAVE to workout everyday, it was a much different experience for me. I couldn’t tell you the last time I took a B R E A K. Actually, I can it was when I was obsessively working out, not eating enough and needed to stop before my health went plummeting downhill. I’ll save that story for another time. This time was different, this time was because I simply wanted to experience ME. Not the me that depends on the gym everyday, not the me on a high from working out every morning. Simply me, in all my endorphin-less glory. 

So here’s the story- I started feeling super stressed with school and pressed for time to workout everyday. I took a few days off and decided maybe I’ll keep this up for a while, you know stay up a little later (studying, hanging out with friends, reading) and sleep in (meaning 8am HA). The first week was fun really, I didn’t have to wake up and meet my demanding daily 7am appointment. But then something interesting started to happen, I stopped focusing as much on my body and more on the way I felt. I ate when I was hungry and admittedly, I let myself eat “non-clean” food every once in a while. AKA PIZZA. And to be honest it felt great. I truly felt that I was tuning into my true self and not this person constantly masked by the effects of working out (good and bad). I believe there are positives and negatives to just about everything, working out included. As great as it is for the mind, body, metabolism, heart, etc. there IS a point of diminishing return. Meaning the constant pushing, mental and physical stress is doing more harm than good. While I have not been to this extreme in a few years, a break was fully warranted and FULLY beneficial. 

Fast forward a few weeks and everything began to go downhill. A little back story: when I was in middle school (and a litttttle bit in high school) I used to have SEVERE anxiety in classrooms, only at that time I had no idea what anxiety was. I would be in class and when the teacher closed the door I would feel trapped. I would get myself so worked up to the point where I thought I was going to be sick. I remember having to calm myself down and continually reassure myself that I was fine, and everything was fine. The class would be over before I knew it and I would be able to bask in the fresh air of a crowded middle school hallway (not as appealing now if you ask me). Anyway…the point of this is I haven’t had that feeling in YEARS and honestly I completely forgot about those minor panic attacks until recently. Recently because it happened again. About two weeks ago I was sitting in class, I had gotten up that morning walked to Starbucks and studied for a few hours instead of going to the gym. It must have been a combination of the unmatched strength of Starbuck’s caffeine and a lack of my daily endorphin release that sent me over the edge, but it was happening. I felt a lump in my throat, sweaty palms and a sudden feeling of sickness. I couldn’t stop my thoughts. Over and over I kept thinking what is wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? I’m going to be sick. I couldn’t stop the shaking, discomfort and 100000mph thoughts racing through my head. After a mental battle with myself I got the courage to get up. I walked out of the classroom straight to the bathroom where I looked at myself, took a few deep breaths and told myself I WOULD be fine. Needless to say I didn’t learn much in class that day. What’s even worse? It started happening more. Not just in that class but in all my classes. I was constantly having to leave the room, go to the bathroom and give myself a pep talk to make it through a 50 minute lecture. What was wrong with me? As time went on I noticed various changes in my thought process, the way I felt and most apparent, my attention span. 

After worsening anxiety and some contemplation I decided I needed to get back to the gym. What had changed since now and middle school? Well a lot, but one thing I know for sure is my healthy habits, particularly working out. Just a few days after being back in the gym I noticed a change in my attention span. I was able to concentrate for longer periods of time and I didn’t find myself daydreaming as frequently. Most importantly my mood shifted. I was reminded of the empowering endorphin rush I get just after a workout and how beneficial it is for my mental well-being. Not only that but WOW it feels good to sweat. My body was giving me signs that I needed to be back in the gym. I was craving that rush and quite frankly could use some release to tackle my anxiety. While a break was just what I needed at the time, it had run its course and  served its use. Moral of the story- workout addiction is real. It is a problem and there CAN be too much of a good thing. Taking a break has allowed me to come back with a fresh start, a new outlook and new goals to work towards. It has taught me that there are aspects of my workout routine I need to focus on and improve. One of the most important things I have learned is the importance of a break. Taking more days off than anticipated is okay. Staying up late one night to hangout with the people you love is okay. Eating that piece of pizza and having that extra piece of chocolate is okay. If the mind isn’t healthy there is no use in focusing on the body. Working out provides me with confidence, ease, and release. It gives me something to work for and something to indulge in other than studying. The benifits of exercise are immense, any research article will tell you that. But a little time off is important too. Know your body, listen to the signs and honor yourself with whatever your needs of the day might be. 

Special Asian Salad

Food

If we’re being completely honest, from a nutritional standpoint, I could eat salad three times a day for the rest of my life. While my plate may not always resemble a traditional salad, it’s always there. I eat greens with everything, and I find that when I stray away from them for a day or two I start to feel a little off. Greens are a staple in the nutritional world and should be incorporated into EVERYONE’S diet. That being said, I often get bored with my salads, I find that I have a few staple bowls I always go to and a lot of the time I don’t really think about trying anything out of the ordinary. This year for Christmas I acquired a surplus of cookbooks. I’ve never been one to follow recipes but these new books have me eager to try a few. One that stood out to me was an Asian salad from Plant Based Paleo written by Jenna Zoe. This salad is a take on a traditional kale salad, with an interesting mix of flavors and packed with nutrition. The recipe is made for four but I decided to make it my own, doubling it and adding a few things. The best part about this salad is it STILL tastes good after being refrigerated!! No soggy lettuce or dull flavors.

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Ingredients

2 large heads of kale

6-8 tablespoons black truffle oil

2 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt

2 sprigs fresh mint

2 sprigs fresh cilantro

8 scallions

freshly squeezed juice from 2 limes

2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

6 tablespoons nutritional yeast

6 tablespoons hemp seeds

4 carrots

1 cucumber

OPTIONAL avocado

 

 

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Instructions

  1. Wash and dry both heads of kale. Once they are dry chop the kale into fine pieces. In a large bowl massage the kale with truffle oil and Himalayan salt. When evenly coated allow to stand for 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime thinly slice carrots and cucumber. If the option is available, spiralize the carrots and cucumber.
  3. Add carrots, cucumber, mint, cilantro, scallions, and lime juice to kale mixture.
  4. Toss salad and then add remaining ingredients.
  5. Top with avocado and serve.

Enjoy!!

Less Meat More…Hummus

Food

Recently I’ve been altering my diet a bit in terms of meat consumption. I’m always trying new recipes and adding new staples to my daily routine and the past few weeks i’ve been focusing particularly on eliminating excess meat. With the workouts I do I have always been convinced that I should be consuming meat based protein numerous times a day, in addition to meals. However, I am now coming to the conclusion that such an astounding amount of meat is not necessary and may even be harmful.
While I do still need protein (as does everyone) I have been leaning towards beans and plants significantly more often. I do still consume meat, and as I said in a previous post I do not plan on eliminating it from my diet, but I have found that I feel better when I don’t eat as much.
I have always assumed that the only way to acquire sufficient quantities of protein is through meat. This is not true. Plant based products, particularly beans, lentils, edamame, chickpeas etc. contain up to 18 grams of protein per serving.
Since I eat a big bowl of greens AT LEAST two times a day, I’m already getting a fairly decent amount. I just need a little extra boost to get me where I need to be. This is where I turn to beans and most importantly, HUMMUS. Hummus has always been a love of mine but I have never viewed it as a source of protein. Fortunately, a typical serving contains 8 grams and when combined with beans you’ll have the perfect amount.
Here’s a quick salad I made sans meat (with a few extra goodies).

INGREDIENTS
Mixed Greens
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Onion
Organic Blackberries
ORGANIC Black Beans- when purchasing canned beans ALWAYS buy organic and be sure to rinse them before eating.
Hummus

*I have also tried this recipe without the berries and with salsa instead, great flavor! You could always add some cheese and Greek Yogurt, as a sour cream supplement and turn it into a Mexican bowl!

When There’s a Will There’s a Way

Food, Uncategorized

I am currently posted in my cozy little writing corner-tea in hand reminiscing on the amazing opportunity I had this summer to visit the Grand Canyon. I love traveling, seeing new places and learning new things, but I always find myself stressing over where my next meal will be and whether or not I will be able to find something healthy-NOT a healthy habit I will admit, but sometimes I can’t help it.

This vacation was a bit different from your normal beach resort. We spent our days covered in dust and sweat hiking up and down the side of this monstrous canyon (the views were GORGEOUS-more posts to come on that). As or days came to an end we found ourselves exhausted and unable to conjure up enough energy to shower and make it to a big fancy dinner.
Instead of your typical room service we decided to create our own hotel masterpiece. The first night we took it upon ourselves to make a grandiose dinner sans oven/stove/microwave etc. With only a mini fridge, some plastic utensils and $17 worth of food (and food network playing in the background for support) I have to say we got pretty creative.
For our first course we had an elegant little appetizer consisting of Ancient Grain crackers and carrots dipped in tapenade hummus. Fancy right??
Next we moved on to the main course-salad. We started with our base, greens of course and got as crazy as we could with the extras. I bought pre made mixed greens with chopped carrots, sugar snap peas, and cherry tomatoes. From there we added sliced avocado and leftover apple from our hiking snack pack.
Since we were trying to keep things cheap and avoid lugging back extra food on the plane I was at a loss for my typical oil and vinegar. I had to settle for a pre made vinegarette- olive oil vinegar and a few added spices. I tried to find something with as little sugar and preservatives as possible. Sometimes you just have to settle for good enough. Regardless, the salad tasted amazing, my boyfriend said it was the best one i’ve made (HA).

We didn’t quite make it to desert but a few glasses of white wine made up for that. Laughing, joking, and criticizing chopped (favorite show) we had an exhilarating dinner in our private little hotel room. While this may not have been a five star gourmet meal we cultivated a filling, clean and nutritious dish.
This goes to prove that you don’t need fancy kitchen tools or suppliance’s to make a healthy and filling meal. You don’t need a never-ending budget either!

If you put fourth the thought and effort it IS possible to eat healthy no matter where you are.

Friday Food For Thought

Food, Uncategorized

My philosophy on food is that everything you eat serves a purpose. When we consume food we should be focusing on nutritious, whole foods that benefit our bodies. Eating is more than just shoving good tasting, or pretty looking “food” into our mouths. It should be strategic and thought out, in this way allowing us to reap the full benefits.

I recently read an article on  Food Matters regarding the best foods for your mood and energy, it inspired me to be mindful of the advantages of specific foods. It can be easy to slip out of healthy eating during a season full of vacation and free time. Here are just a few ideas to keep you energized and feeling your best.

Coconut-I personally have a newfound obsession with coconut. I’ve been adding it to my smoothies, energy bars, and even snacking on raw coconut chips. This fruit/nut is unique in that it contains medium chain triglycerides-a type of fat that is turned into energy instead of being stored as fat (see there are healthy fats!). When you need a little extra boost coconut is a great option.

Kale-We have all heard more than enough about kale in the past 10 years but it truly is one of the healthiest foods we can eat. This superfood is particularly high in vitamins B6, B1, and B2 which are essential vitamins used to convert nutrients into energy. Along many other nutrients kale contains potassium, copper, phosphorus, and iron all of which are minerals our bodies need but may be difficult to find elsewhere.

Ginger Tea-This one may be my favorite, i’m always up for an afternoon tea (really anytime tea for that matter). Ginger has a multitude of health benefits and when infused into tea it serves as the perfect afternoon pick me up. Not only is it filled with antioxidants to flush out all the toxins in your body, it also contains vitamin C, magnesium, and amino acids. This surplus of nutrients improves circulation, manages glucose levels, opens airways, and alleviates tension. In addition a soothing cup of warm tea is always perfect in the middle of a stressful day at work.

Nuts-This powerhouse snack has been highly debated lately and deserves some praise. I personally eat nuts everyday, sometimes even too often. Nuts are one of the most natural and beneficial foods on the market and their nutritional value has been highly neglected. While nuts are full of fat, it is not processed in the body the same way as saturated fats. They are high in magnesium, which allows the body to covert sugar into energy, and will keep you feeling full longer. Raw tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts and hazelnuts are the most beneficial as they have been linked to improved cholesterol, decreased heart disease, and weight control. Not to mention they are FULL of fiber, and who doesn’t need a little more fiber in their life?

Avocado-EVERYONE should eat avocado everyday. Not only do they taste delicious, but they provide a burst of energy and are chock full of nutrients. They’re a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which most of us do not get on a daily basis. These fatty acids are essential for lowering LDL and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. They are also filled with essential vitamins and minerals-calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus and potassium just to name a few. Even just one half of an avocado on your salad or in a smoothie will give you that little boost you need to make it through the day.

 

What the Health

Food

As summer is in full swing I have finally had some time to sit down and enjoy some much needed Netflix time. I have always found documentaries extremely interesting and one in particular stayed with me a little longer than usual. If you’re an avid Netflix watcher i’m sure you’ve seen What the Health on the trending list. Interestingly enough it was not what I expected. I anticipated a typical healthy lifestyle promoting film, maybe some new information on organic eating, or something similar to Food Inc (I highly recommend watching  if you have not already). To my surprise it was solely focused on promoting a vegetarian lifestyle. I have been involved in the health community and researched healthy living, eating and exercising for years, and have always been an avid promoter of a meat inclusive diet. But for some reason this documentary sparked an

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unease in my confidence. While I have always known that organic, grass fed, hormone/ antibiotic free meat is the best I did not realize the extent to which processed and essentially “dirty” meat is harmful to our health.

*Disclaimer- I am NOT  promoting this documentary and do not plan on adopting a

vegetarian style of eating for myself, I still consume meat on a regular basis, I am just emphasizing the importance of consuming the proper types of meat.

After watching this documentary I was scared and led to believe that all meat causes cancer, diabetes and heart disease, but after doing some research I was again put to ease that it is not inhumane to consume meat, it is instead inhumane to consume corporate-raised antibiotic fed meat.

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Where our meat comes from is crucial to our health and a major debate in and of itself (I will not get into it too much but if you have the time I suggest doing some research). Today meat producing companies claim that the only way to feed our growing society is to produce meat unnaturally, and in a harmful manner. Chicken and cows are raised in confined conditions, unable to ever walk, and forced to consume their own feces (in addition to the antibiotics and growth hormones they are fed). They are not living and thriving animals, they are a commodity produced to serve a purpose. These unlawful living conditions not only affect the animals themselves but us as consumers. When we consume even a bite of meat we are eating everything that animal has ever put into their mouth. It goes back to the old saying, “what you eat is what you are.” Those animals are everything that they eat, the chemicals and antibiotics all go into their bodies and morphs them into one gigantic hazard. On the contrary, when animals are raised naturally, on big and open farms, fed grass and plants, (the way they are supposed to) they grow to become healthy and strong. We as consumers then have the assurance that what we are putting into our bodies is natural, and of value to our health.

The documentary What the Health fails to address the importance of healthy meat. They are promoting  a blanket statement that all meat is bad, and all meat causes disease. This is wrong. While a vegetarian diet may be beneficial for some due to health reasons it is not the way we were made to eat. Humans were made to consume meat, it is the circle of life and the most natural way to eat. It is where the meat is sourced that is the problem.

Health is a growing and ever changing subject. It is a science and will forever be developing and modified. The biggest take away from this is to not believe everything you hear. Do some research, try it out for yourself. Diets and healthy lifestyles are subjective and every body is different. While a vegetarian lifestyle may work best for some people, it is not the be all end all, and it is most definitely not the way we were intended to live. The best advice I can give when it comes to eating is to consume whole foods. Eat natural, farm raised and organically produced foods. Stay away from anything processed, including meat, and live as naturally as possible. The world was not made to be full of chemicals and artificially produced commodities.

A good way to stay away from processed and disease causing foods is to try to cook at home more, avoid restaurants and places where you are uninformed about what you are eating, because it is more than likely to be unhealthy. Even when a food is labeled “healthy” and “natural” it may contain pesticides, antibiotics and or hormones. When you prepare your own food you have the luxury of knowing where it is sourced and everything that goes into it. For me personally I avoid eating meat when I go out, and when I cook I only purchase grass fed and hormone free meat. It is possible to feed a world naturally and we as consumers are responsible to make the first steps.

Simple Eating

Food

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As Americans we have this warped conception that everything needs to happen as quickly and  conveniently as possible, especially when it comes to food. In the world of healthy eating we have been programmed to believe convenience and easy access is simply not possible.

I’m here to tell you that is false.

Yes, I will admit that in order to reap the benefits of a healthy meal normally it takes a little extra time. Fortunately this does not always have to be the case. I am the QUEEN of rushing and moving onto my next task as quickly and efficiently as possible (exhibit A-I made this salad and am writing this post between work shifts) and in doing this I have found loop holes in the healthy eating time trap.

My go to meal is a salad. I’m talking a big, nutrition packed, stomach filling salad. I have mastered the art of salad making and have the practice down to a tee in terms of time. I do not believe in recipes when making this nutrition packed dish, all it really takes is throwing some of your favorite ingredients on a bed of lettuce and voila! You have yourself a meal. Salads can be made any “theme” if you will. You could be  in the mood for something light and fruity, or maybe something savory with a little spice for that extra kick. The beautiful thing about salads is they are completely your own.

Start with your base-mixed greens, spinach, romaine, and or kale and then decide the flavors you want to go for. Are you feeling sweet or savory? Maybe Mexican or Asian? Once you have an idea in mind you can begin to put together your ingredients. Choose three to five vegetables and then add a few of what I call “extras.” Possibly chopped almonds or walnuts, maybe coconut flakes or some fruit. Finally decide on a form of protein. If you’re  a vegetarian add beans, tofu or even hummus for some extra flavor. If you’re in the mood for meat add some grilled chicken or salmon. Eggs are always a great option as well. Make your salad as big or as small as you like, just ensure you are including healthy ingredients.

Here are a few steps to guide you through the process:

Step 1-CHOOSE YOUR BASE

Romaine

Spinach

Kale

Arugula

Collard

*stay away from ice burg lettuce (the white stuff) it has little to no nutritional value

Step 2-FRUITS/VEGETABLES

Cucumber, Tomato, Onions, Beets, Carrots, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Celery, Corn, Green Beans, Brussels Sprouts, Peppers, Edamame, Mushrooms

Apples, Oranges, Cranberries, Raisins, Mango, Peaches, Pomegranate, Pineapple, Watermelon, Kiwi, Grapefruit, Grapes, Blueberries, Strawberries, Blackberries

Step 3-EXTRAS

Coconut Flakes

Almonds

Walnuts

Chia Seeds

Jalapeños

Salsa

Pesto

Guacamole

Hummus

*try not to add croutons, if you’re looking for something crunchy go for nuts if they are in your diet

Step 4- PROTEIN

Vegetarian-Black Beans, Lentils, Chickpeas, Tofu, Edamame, Fennel

Meat-grilled chicken, salmon, tuna, shrimp, eggs, turkey, ham, beef

DRESSING

When choosing a dressing the first thing you should look at is the sugar content. A lot of store bought dressings tend to claim they are “healthy” yet they fill them with unnecessary sugar. Look for something lighter such as a vinaigrette. There are a lot of different flavored vinaigrettes  if the typical oil and vinegar does not appeal to you. I have recently been using olive oil and a blueberry based balsamic vinegar. I also use lemon or lime juice as well as Apple Cider Vinegar.

 

Salads are perfect for lunch or dinner when you don’t have enough time to prepare a full blown meal, and they can even suffice as a mid day snack you can pack for work or grab at home. Experiment with different types and flavors and allow yourself to enjoy cultivating new and exciting mixtures.

The best advice I can give is to make your salad your own. Keep some fresh fruits and vegetables in the fridge, and ALWAYS make sure you have greens.

INGREDIENTS

-Organic Girl 50/50 Spring Mix

-halved cherry tomatoes

-diced onion

-blackberries

-chopped cucumber

-raw cauliflower

DRESSING

-balsamic glaze

-olive oil

OPTIONAL PROTEIN

-Hummus

-Grilled Chicken

-Hard Boiled Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

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Lunch of the Day

Food

Black Bean Avocado Wrap

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Ingredients 

Whole Wheat Wrap

Cooked Broccoli

White Onions

Tomatoes

Black Beans

Avocado

*Hummus for dipping

Preparation

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Bring stovetop to medium heat, add avocado oil or butter and lightly warm wrap.

 

Add all ingredients except beans and avocado.

Once brought to desired heat add beans followed by the avocado.

Remove from stove and enjoy!

Tip-dip in hummus for extra flavor

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